Salt Lake City, UT—Today, Representative John Curtis (R-UT) delivered the following remarks at Sutherland Institute’s Congressional Series. He spoke on what it’s like to be a climate conservative and the climate issues we are facing today. The Congressman also wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Washington Examiner this week comparing American and Chinese efforts to reduce carbon, provide legislative solutions and argue that the U.S. has been and must continue leading globally on clean energy innovation. Click here to read.
“Can we all agree that less pollution is better than more? Less carbon in the air is better? Less plastic in the ocean is better? Cleaner water is better? Cleaner air is better? Can we agree that we shouldn’t waste resources and we should be more efficient? I can’t imagine that there’s a ton who would disagree with me.”
Full transcript of the event is available below:
Representative John Curtis:
Thank you, Rick. It’s such a delight to be with you and those listening today. Well, I’m going to jump right in. I have a lot to share and I want to get going. When I was a 13-year-old scout, my scoutmaster determined to give us a life-altering experience. He prepared and led a gaggle of scouts 70 miles through the [inaudible] to the top of Utah’s highest peak, Kings Peak. He trained us on each aspect that would be needed for our success. We became masters of packing and finding ways to keep our backpacks under 40 pounds. Some of us barely weighed 40 pounds. Every ounce mattered. We shaved precious fractions of an ounce by cutting our toothbrushes in half. Every small thing was a big deal.
I’ll never forget standing victoriously on top of Kings Peak. Because of the curve of the earth, a normal eye standing on flat ground can see about 3 miles. With a height advantage of over 13,527 feet, it seemed to me like I could hundreds of miles. Profoundly imprinted on my soul is the view of nature devoid of the impact of man, trees, lakes, forests, wildlife, just as nature had created it. Have you ever marveled how nature can create a perfect landscape? It needs no gardener, no sprinkler system, no fertilization by man. My scouting experience taught me to love God’s creation of the earth, and that I was accountable for my stewardship over it. In scouting, we refer to that as leaving our campsite better than we found it.
This concept of being a conservative and caring about Earth has been weighing on my mind for as long as I’ve been in public office. When asked for my topic of my remarks today, I knew I had to discuss our stewardship over this Earth, even if it came at the cost of offending my friends on the right and on the left. Since becoming a member of Congress a few years ago, I’ve been obsessed with concepts I hope to share with you today. Before I begin, I must give a small disclosure. I’m not perfect, and I’m still striving to practice what I preach. I also don’t have all the answers. My thoughts presented today represent a journey that I’ve only just begun.
So what is the confession of a climate conservative? A climate conservative believes we have a responsibility to leave this Earth better than we found it. We believe reasonable and practical answers can be found in innovation and provident living. We believe it is our duty to live without leaving a burden for future generations. And we believe the responsibility falls on the entire world and not just the United States. We believe that efforts to improve the environment should achieve real environmental benefits and not just feel-good actions. We believe science is important, but not the only tool for policymaking. We believe the regulatory process should allow for responsible resource management and not to assist the agenda of the special interest groups. We believe the cost of regulation should not outweigh the benefits. And we believe while government has a role, the larger role is personal responsibility and market-driven solutions.
Have you ever looked at a situation and said to yourself, “Everything is wrong here”? That’s how I view the nation’s climate dialogue. We’re off track. On the one side, it feels like environmental activists are consumed with unreasonable feel-good proposals. Look no further than the Green New Deal. They wag their finger, use shame and guilt, and drive SUVs on their way to their protest. On the other side, they put their head in the sand and refuse to accept any responsibility or offer solutions of their own.
I’ve watched this debate unfold and I believe I understand where the disconnect starts. On the side of those who want everyone to jump on the climate change bandwagon are three tools: science, shame, and fear. Those who embrace science are dumbfounded that dropping the S-word isn’t all that’s needed to get everyone behind them. If science can really have that type of impact, then why do overweight people have the extra dessert even with scientific evidence of diabetes? Why do our young people crowd beaches and bars despite scientific origins of COVID? Why do most of us not get enough sleep when science tells us that we’d be healthier with seven to eight hours? The list goes on including smoking, drugs, and alcohol abuse. Has anyone ever successfully used science to rehabilitate a drug user? When waiving the scientific reports fails, I’ve seen the debate quickly turned to shaming. And when, of course, that doesn’t work, sure to follow is the crisis discussion.
I’ve been in DC long enough to know that everything is called a crisis. Excuse me, but we’re a little crisis consumed right now. Russia is a crisis. COVID is a crisis. China is a crisis. Venezuela, justice reform, inequality, Yemen, forest fires, and now the post office is a crisis. When everything is a crisis, nothing is a crisis. These three tactics of science, shame, and crisis do not work. In fact, they drive the divide even wider. So to my good friends on the left, stop, you’re not helping. I don’t know how to say this any better, but my motivation for caring about the earth doesn’t come from climate change fears. And I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling.
Therefore, show me all the evidence you want, it doesn’t move me. No, don’t misunderstand. I can see the climate changing. And it’s not hard for me to imagine that decades and decades of the Industrial Revolution have had an impact on the climate. Is that a problem? Yes, of course it is. It’s a big problem and it needs to be addressed. But the fear of the climate change is not my motivation. What does move me, a reverence for God’s creations, a feeling of accountability for my stewardship on this Earth, and a hope that my grandchildren and their posterity will be able to stand on Kings Peak and glimpse the greatness of nature.
Now, let me be equally critical of my friends on the right. Why are you afraid of this issue? Why won’t you engage? Why does the climate question scare you? Are you really contempt with the label of not caring about the earth? If I utter the word climate, why does my wife get panic calls that I had gone off the deep end and I’m now in league with AOC? Why do you insist on minimizing the issue and calling it a hoax?
Several months ago, I was invited by the Aspen Institute to a nonpartisan environmental discussion for members of Congress. The list of Democrats attending grew quickly and had to be limited. Despite a valiant effort, there were only two of us Republicans willing to attend. It was a conference lasting several days. And after the first session, the only other Republican left the conference, leaving me as the lone Republican. We talked about the elephant in the room. But that day, I was literally the elephant in the room, the only elephant. If we don’t take a seat at the table, can we really complain about the discussion at the table? Can we really expect to recruit and retain the upcoming generation of Republicans, if we can’t look them in the eye when we talk about the earth?
As a conservative, I regret that we’ve let ourselves be branded as not caring about the earth. It’s time to stop being on the defensive and go on the offensive. As conservatives, we know we can solve any problem with time-honored values, not government mandates and regulations. So why are we hiding? This is a Republican bread and butter issue. We care about the earth. Now let’s show it.
It’s my experience that Utahns and conservatives care deeply about this Earth. That most of us have a Kings Peak memory and commitment to leave our campsite better than we found it. Taking care of this Earth is and always has been an important value of conservatives. George H.W. Bush started the National Climate Assessment in 1990. In George W. Bush’s speech on climate he said, “I’ve put our nation on a path to slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.” The conservation legacy of Republican Teddy Roosevelt is found in the 230 million acres of public lands he helped establish during his first presidency. Roosevelt was also the first president to create a federal bird reserve, and he would establish 51 of these during his administration. And, of course, during Roosevelt’s administration, the National Park System grew substantially.
In early 1970, as a result of heightened public concerns about deteriorating city air, natural areas littered with debris, and urban water supplies contaminated with dangerous impurities, President Richard Nixon presented a groundbreaking 37-point message on the environment and then created the EPA. Under Reagan, the agency announced final regulations reducing the permissible lead concentration and leaded gasoline. It’s fair to say many of us are grumpy, but these well-intentioned programs have been abused. Nevertheless, and regardless of stereotypes, Republicans have shown strong leadership on the environment.
Now let’s pause for just a moment. Can we all agree that less pollution is better than more, less carbon in the air is better, less plastic in the ocean is better, cleaner water is better, cleaner air is better? Can we agree that we shouldn’t waste resources and we should be more efficient? I can’t imagine that there’s a Utahn who would disagree with me. This is a message echoed by our leaders of religion. Listen to these quotes from a diverse group of religious leaders.
From the Dalai Lama, “Our ancestors viewed the earth as rich and bountiful, which it is. Many people in the past also saw nature as inexhaustibly sustainable, which we now know is the case only if we care from it.”
From the Confucian Ecological Alliance, “Sustainable, harmonious relationship between the human species and nature is not merely an abstract idea, but a concrete guide for practical living.”
Amma, an Indian Hindu spiritual leader, “There is an inseparable bond between man and nature. For man, there cannot be an existence removed from nature.”
President Joseph F. Smith, “Love of nature is akin to the love of God. The two are inseparable.”
President Ezra Taft Benson, “We are stewards over these earthly blessings which the Lord has provided. Those of us who have the soil and this water we have no moral attitude, it seems to me. In fact, we are morally obligated to turn this land over to those who succeed us, not drained of its fertility, but improved in quality, and productivity, and in usefulness for future generations.”
And from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints website, “This beautiful Earth and all things on it are creations of God. As beneficiaries of this divine creation, we should care for the earth, be wise stewards over it, and preserve it for future generations.”
May I suggest we all just take one big step backwards and ask this very simple question, “Do you want to leave the earth better than you found it?” I believe you do. The real question is, what should we do about it? Believe it or not, we don’t need to destroy the U.S. economy to be successful. As a matter of fact, I believe a once in a generational opportunity is in front of us. The world is changing and transitioning. If U.S. leads, we will profit from it just the way we did in the Industrial Revolution. We have a choice, it can be U.S. innovation and technology that’s used around the world, or we can sit on our hands and let someone else do it.
As I’ve studied the issue, I have identified five approaches that should have broad bipartisan support. First, innovation. I grew up in the shadow of the moonwalk. I believe if America puts our collective mind to it, we can learn how to solve many of our polluting problems by taking carbon out of the air or making nuclear a safe option. If we want to reduce carbon, nuclear must be part of the answer. I love the innovation that’s coming out of Emery in Carbon County. They hope to be a national leader on molten salt nuclear reactors. These are community leaders who see the future and who are preparing for it. Innovation plays an important role when it comes to coal and other carbon-based sources of energy. Coal has been villainized by many, but I like to point out the enemy is carbon in the air and not coal. I regret that these communities feel villainized for providing the fuel that’s given us an amazing quality of life.
Number two, conservation. There is no more conservative principle than not wasting resources. Conservation must be part of our playbook. Everyone can get involved in this. I get a kick out of looking at church parking lots on Sunday. Most of you will know what I mean. To be truthful, there have been times when the Curtis family not only took one car to church just two blocks away but multiple cars. Do the math. If every Utahn eliminated one vehicle trip per year, per week, that’s three million vehicle trips per week. Now that’s a big deal.
Number three, preparation and adaptation. The earth flows in cycles. We’re in a warming cycle. We need to be preparing for rising seasons, rising seas, and changing seasons. Maybe it’s time to start rebuilding cities that are below sea level.
Four, globalize. Even if the U.S. is successful, we must have the cooperation of our global partners. Think about this, for every ton of carbon dioxide reduced by the United States, China has increased its emissions by over 4 tons. This disparity will only get worse in coming years. In fact, by 2030, over 30% of global emissions will come from China. Part of making this a global issue is the change coming to the world economy. If you aren’t on the take care of the earth bandwagon yet, this next point should convince you: There’s money to be made in green. U.S. fossil fuel producers are amongst the cleanest and most efficient in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Think about this, lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from Russian natural gas pipeline to Europe and China is over 40% higher than U.S. natural gas exports. In other words, by replacing Russian natural gas with U.S. natural gas, we could dramatically reduce carbon in the air and create U.S. jobs at the same time.
Number five, I regret that part of the shaming culture makes it impossible to celebrate our successes. But let’s face it, it’s important to celebrate our progress. America is the global leader in reducing carbon emissions having cut more than the next dozen reducing countries combined between 2005 and 2017. Now that’s worth celebrating. I wouldn’t want to conclude without pointing out the fallacy of looking to the federal government for that one magic solution that will solve everything. I believe being good stewards begins with personal responsibility.
I hope all of us will ask what can we do, personally, to be a good steward? Reducing the automobile use, producing less waste, recycling, minimizing our home energy consumption, and considering renewable energy options are low-hanging fruit. Sometimes, these seem like such small things, but like cutting my toothbrush in half, small things add up to big things. Leaving the earth better than we found it is an innate human value. Which of us can hike a mountain, wander beneath the starlit sky, or watch a trout in a brook without committing to preserve these gifts for our grandchildren? Those of us that walk this Earth, have a debt to be good stewards, not waste resources and protect clean air and water.
Decades ago, we learned that the cosmetics of the earth were important, and we were taught not to litter and to preserve beautiful views and vistas. Today, we know things we can’t see also have ramifications and pumping harmful pollutants into the air has consequences. The earth has an amazing ability to regenerate, but man has the potential to overwhelm and exceed the earth’s ability to revive itself.
Today’s debate centers on the changes we see in our climate, and how much impact decades of an Industrial Revolution have had, and perhaps more importantly, will have on the resilient yet delicate ecosystem of this Earth. If not careful, this debate is often the beginning of our inability to work together. Camps can quickly form into two sides of extremism and denial. Of course, neither radicalism nor dismissal is in harmony with our roles as agents of this Earth. Please join me as I explore the role of individuals, businesses, organizations, and government in leaving this Earth better than we found it.
Rick Larsen, Sutherland Institute president:
Representative, thank you. Have you got time for a few questions? It’s intriguing to view this from a policy rather than a political standpoint. And you can’t help but ask, how did we get here? I know you to be a successful entrepreneur, successful mayor. I’ll also add to those in the national audience, in Utah we have a unique awareness of air quality. Geography means we live in a mountain-created bowl. So we know what inversions are. We know what can happen to air during certain seasons. But as you point back to Republican leadership, where did we go wrong? Where did this become so partisan, that it was a platform issue for Democrats and Republicans could no longer talk about being conserving nature out loud without political peril? What happened?
So, I think a lot of it has to do with this really bad question. And the question is, do you believe the climate is changing and you believe that man has influenced it? Now, for those who asked the question, some of them ask it as a track. And it’s meant to be a gotcha moment. Not everybody, but many do. And so, Republicans have learned to run and hide from the question. And that, to me, is what I see in Washington DC as the big divider.
And I’ll tell you what, it’s a little therapeutic, to be honest, to sit down and ask yourself that question, right? Is the climate changing? That’s not really hard to debate, right? We know the climate is changing, it always changes. Now, is it possible that decades, and decades, and decades of the Industrial Revolutions had any impact at all on that? Well, that’s not hard to answer either. And yet, Republicans don’t view it that way. They tend to refuse to answer the question. And my experience is if you don’t answer that question, you don’t get a seat at the table, and you get branded as not caring about the earth. And that’s why I really urge my friends on the left to stop asking that question. And I urge my friends on the right to stop running from it. Right? It just seems like we never get past that question. I went to answer that question in a town hall meeting, and it was front-page news the next day that I acknowledged – why is that front-page news, right?
So let me ask you a question that is not intended to be a trap, but I’m genuinely curious. When you have these conversations off the record with your Republican cohorts in DC, are their answers different privately than the ones they feel like they’re forced to make publicly?
You know, some are, but I regret that many of my Republican colleagues still run from this issue. And I think that’s just unfortunate. I think we need to own it. We need to go on the offensive. We have answers, right, and they fit with good conservative values. And I’m really afraid that many of my colleagues just are afraid of the issue and run from it. And some will say, you know, quietly, but the reality is most of them really haven’t come to terms with it. Yeah.
Somewhat related, you made a comment that could really be a sea change in how anyone views this issue. One of the complaints you hear from the right is the massive cost associated with things like the Green New Deal. But it raises an interesting question, why is it a government cost at all? Why isn’t it innovation, private sector, personal responsibility?
And the answer to that is because we’re standing on the sidelines not giving answers, right? If conservatives were the ones putting answers forward, they would be market-driven. Let me give you a perfect example. I mentioned in my remarks that U.S. has led in carbon reduction. That’s primarily from the use of natural gas instead of coal. The market, because of its price, did more to replace coal with natural gas than any government program ever could have done. And this is where I’m kind of begging conservatives to jump up, and put forward these market solutions, and come up with ideas, and get a seat at the table, and be vocal about our answers.
Thank you. Of course, we can’t ignore the global nature of this problem. I don’t have the data at my fingertips, so I’ll say this generally and you please fill in if I mistake. But there are a couple of nations in the world with populations so large that as they move towards a larger middle class, what that does to cars on the road, to factories, to home consumption of energy, it makes the U.S. seem almost minor in comparison. So, what are the steps to establishing world leadership on this issue? Because we can’t possibly do it alone, no one nation can.
So, yeah, the example is let’s suppose that Provo decides that we’re not going to pollute anymore but Orem doesn’t. We share the same airspace, right? And in many ways, we share the airspace with China, and India, and Russia, and these other countries. This is a statistic that when I learned it, it totally changed my paradigm. The U.S. produces on a world-stage, somewhere between 10% and 15% of the entire carbon in the air. We could go to zero. We could implement the Green New Deal 100% and it would make no difference to climate change. And so, you are exactly right.
My answer to this is also market-driven. Look just like natural gas replaced coal, if the U.S designs and develops the technology that is market-driven, that’s what will make these other countries use that technology. It has to be less expensive. It has to be more efficient, and then it will be adopted. And this is how the U.S. shows leadership. And profits, quite frankly, from this. I mentioned the Industrial Revolution, we’re on the brink of a new revolution. And some countries want to pay for it even if it’s more expensive. Europe and other countries will pay for technology, even if it’s more expensive. China, Russia, and India will adapt it as it becomes less expensive, which it will. And I really believe that’s how the U.S. can show leadership and also really profit and benefit ourselves as well.
Do you think from a policy standpoint, that that kind of emerging leadership, is that far more important than a Paris Accord, than any one agreement is an example and exerting that example in leadership over accords and politically-structured agreements?
I actually think you need some of both. The Paris accord was flawed, it was flawed dramatically. The Paris Accord gave China the right to pollute for another 20 years and blessed their increasing pollution while the U.S. was expected to decline. So, I think we need a version of the Paris Accord that is equally … that spreads that burden across to everybody. But I think the U.S. should show some leadership in working and bringing other countries, and getting them to the table, and getting commitments from them as well.
So, one thing we’ve learned from this series and the comments that are made during and after, people find themselves wanting to know what are they supposed to do? If you sit back and watch the news, or watch news coming out of Washington, it feels as if there’s nothing a vote or nothing a citizen can do. Give us a little advice, use some language here that is powerful. How does the average citizen begin to say, “I’m removing the politics from the situation and I’m replacing it with common sense nonpartisan concern for the world I live in”? Where do you start? How do you begin to make a difference as an individual? And then how do you demand that of elected representatives?
So this is really the heart of the question and thank you for asking it. Personal responsibility has to kick in. How can I really expect my elected officials to pass legislation when I’m not willing to walk to church two blocks away? Right? If I’ve not thought about changing my lightbulbs … and I don’t want to give the formula because for everybody, it’s a little different. But there are so many things that individuals can do to lighten the burden here. And I believe and I’ll tell you my personal journey along this path started with making some of those changes myself. I changed my lightbulbs. I started walking to church. I did some of these very basic things. And guess what, I felt really good about it. And I liked that I was being a good steward. And that then prompted me to do more, right?
And I think that’s where the journey begins. And let’s face it, if we had 300 million Americans on this journey, a personal journey to conserve, I think the federal actions, the state actions, and everything would follow that. I really want to applaud the state of Utah. They’ve done some great work on this. They’ve put together a plan and a blueprint. So, we can’t forget the role of local government here. And it’s mayors and county commissioners. They all can, to be honest, do far more than I can do on a federal level that makes a difference. So I just really encourage everybody that’s listening to this to first ask themselves, right, “What’s my responsibility and am I doing it?” And at that point, I can then go expect more from others.
Good point. To go a step deeper on that, do you look around… You mentioned feeling and being somewhat alone at a gathering. As you look around, do you see on the horizon, do you see on the landscape, are there groups, are there efforts, whether it’s a state, whether it’s an organization, are you seeing some examples out there that you could point to and say, “That’s a model that can work”?
I’m really pleased that Washington has a number of conservative organizations lobbying for reform on this issue. And they’ve been very helpful to me in getting my feet underneath me. But I’ll tell you, I’ll come back to the state of Utah. I can’t think of any better example than what the state’s done in preparing their plan for dealing with this. And my experience in this, and it goes back to this culture of shame, people, the second your plan is not perfect, they’re just quick to abandon it and criticize it. There is no perfect plan. And we need to be better about embracing plans, right, and finding the good in them, and implementing the good.
And so, I really applaud our state leaders. And I think that… You know, I love to brag about Utah back in Washington, DC. It’s not unusual that we’re ahead of most issues. And, you know, I point to immigration and to a number of things where we’ve come out early. And I think we’re doing well on this. And I think, you know, there’s still lots of work that we can do. And we’ve got to step up and keep swinging the bat.
Thank you. How do you…? So we’re in an election year, in case anyone has failed to notice that. Is there room for this issue in this election year? How do you keep perspective on both the importance and the optimism that can exist around this issue when so many other…? You made a great comment that everything’s a crisis today, and [inaudible] everything, and if everything is, nothing is, there won’t be priorities. So, how do you keep this issue in a proper perspective amidst everything else?
I believe strongly that if Republicans don’t make it an issue, we will lose the upcoming generation of Republicans. But Democrats have done that, Joe Biden’s four points include climate. And we need to make it one of our points. We need to be talking about it. The upcoming generation will not be patient with us. This is a deal-breaker for them. They’ll leave the Republican Party over this one issue. And I think one of my motivating things early on when I got into this is, I could see… I represent the youngest district in the entire United States is my district. I can see in their eyes, in my town hall meetings, that they’re not going to be patient with Republicans on this issue. And I think it’s incumbent on us to make this an issue and to keep it out there in the forefront and realize it is important to many, many people.
You raise an interesting point, having just watched the conventions last week and now having this week coming up to compare those platform issues, it’s interesting to know that climate change…what didn’t make the agenda but climate change did. And I think we’re looking at a couple of issues, racial equity and climate change may be the top two, that if Republicans don’t speak to those issues, there will not be younger Republicans. Where’s the language change? There are books written on how conservatives sometimes harm themselves, not because of what they believe, but the manner in which they describe it. Because it’s so important, could I just ask you, and if I’m asking you to repeat it’s for a reason, how do we speak differently on this issue?
Okay. First, please don’t run when asked the question about the climate. Hit it head-on. Speak from the heart. That doesn’t mean you have to believe the science. Don’t make it an argument about science, right? Who wins an argument with science? Nobody wins an argument with science. Speak from your heart. Do you want to leave the earth better than you found it? That is the only requirement that’s needed. And use that to jump into the climate debate.
Unfortunately, we’ve been unwilling as Republicans to even say that, that we want to leave the earth better than we found it. Well, of course, we do. Right? And so, don’t run from this. Hit it head-on, call the question what it is, and bring forward our ideas, you know, our good conservative principles. Bring them forward. If you look at the debate, really what happens is Democrats put ideas forward. Republicans criticize them. Democrats put ideas forward, Republicans criticize them. That’s the nature of the debate. And that’s what needs to change. We’ve got to go on the offensive. We’ve got to put our ideas forward.
Thank you. So, there are a number of issues in this election year that could very well prompt a lot of people to vote for the first time. Now, polls are one thing, voting is a very personal private moment. What would you say to first or maybe a return voter has stepped out of the process for a while is frustrated, but something about the issues this year is going to bring them back, as an active voter, what would you say to them?
I laugh because the first thing I say in my town hall meetings is turn off cable news, right? Dig down into the issues. Don’t listen to the platitudes. Don’t listen to the sound bites. Don’t listen to the tweets. Really dig down into issues and see in your heart, you know, who can represent you on those issues that are really so important to you. I really hate that the dialogue has turned into tweets, and sound bites, and cable news. And I’ll tell you, when I watch and I listen to those things I say to myself, “That’s not what I just experienced in Washington, DC. That sounds like a foreign place what they’re talking about, we’re not talking about those things.”
And so, to a new voter, I would say, please take the time to go deep. Please take the time to read and study. It’s almost like turning the volume off on your TV and listening and watching the actions and not letting that noise clutter your decisions. Right now, so many people are making their decision on these externalities, right? And it breaks my heart, I feel like saying. Really, you don’t care about this, and this, and this, and this, and this. Why I hadn’t even thought about those things? And so that would be my advice, go deep.
Good advice. So we have a few minutes left. I think there’s a built-in tolerance level, although I appreciate this format. I think attention spans can only take so much, no matter how interesting the conversation. So, in our last few minutes here, knowing your complexity of thought, I’m sure that there are other issues that you’re focused on, would you like to take just a few minutes and talk to your constituents about what you see as priorities between now and the end of the year? And what tops your list in addition to this one?
Right. That’s a great question. My district is I’ve four counties that are over 90% federal land, and that brings a host of problems. So my team has been amazing wading through public lands issues, extraction issues, the economy. I think it’s fair to say COVID has disproportionately hit different parts of my district. I represent the Navajo Indian Reservation down in South Utah and boy, they’ve just been devastated. In a few days, we’ll hop in a car, we’re going to a Rural Economic Development summit. And I think focusing on the rural parts of my district and really reaching out to them, I like to joke that I could disappear and Salt Lake County and Utah County wouldn’t miss me, but the rural parts of my district would. And so, that’s always a major focus for my office.
Healthcare, it’s been lost a little bit from the debate, but we’ve got some bills in dealing with things like HSAs and telehealth. And that will emerge as a number one issue again, and we’ve got to deal with that. That’s a really important issue as well. I’ve got issues up here in Salt Lake County and Utah County dealing with wilderness, and bike trails, and things like that. And it just seems that there is no lack of important things to work on. And I’ll use this opportunity to give my team a shout out. I have the best team in Utah and Washington DC anywhere on the planet. And I know we all feel that way. And it’s true that they’re all awesome. I just I’m so pleased with my team. You mentioned 12 bills, you know, we’ve actually moved 8 bills all the way into law just in the short time that we’ve been here. And that does happen with an amazing team.
Thank you. Last question. It’s very difficult to find anything good about COVID-19, but I’ve listened to you mention a few things in terms of innovation and TeleMed and that sort of thing. Would you go so far as to say, “We’ve learned things of such importance that there may be silver linings. We’ve accelerated our thought, our technology”? What good can we take from what we’ve been going through?
Oh, I see silver linings everywhere I look. I don’t mind telling you, I’m closer to my family than I was before COVID. Our weekend experiences, our Sunday experiences are rich and deep. And I’m grateful for those. Telehealth, we’ve done some experimenting with that that will last and have strong impact. Deregulation, we’ve deregulated a number of things and I think we’re going to look back and say, “Wow, that was okay to do.” And I think some of those will stick the way we do business, this opportunity, you know, to be on Zoom right now.
This morning, I went from meeting to meeting, to meeting, to meeting, to meeting on Zoom in an efficient way that didn’t wear me out. And normally, you know, when they do that to us, I’m exhausted. And I think the way we meet has a silver lining to it. We’ll find things here that are different. Our environment, the impact, I think we’ll have a lasting environment. I think we’ll be driving less and using less carbon. And I think so… Well, I could go on probably longer than that tolerance you mentioned would last. But I do think there are many silver linings. And as it passes, I think those will become more and more evident.